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How to make Research Questions for your dissertation

Only clearly defined research questions can get accepted for a dissertation. Good research starts with a Good research question and the good research question provides an addition to the knowledge field.

In today’s modern age, we are experiencing new processes and phenomena and dealing with different kinds of problems and in order to explain and solve them, we have to do research. Which simply put an attempt to understand and answer a complex question to derive benefit for the human race at large.

There are various criteria to fulfil in order to come up with good research. The first and most important thing to consider when one is set on the task of writing a research paper is to come up with a research question. It is important because it guides your whole research and helps you to sift through the information available so you might find what you are looking for. A research question gives one a clear focus as to what one wants to achieve from the task one has undertaken. Once you come up with a research question, the answer you find is the statement-the stance which your paper is taking and arguing for. Complex things like a thesis or dissertation involve asking multiple questions which are all centred around one common issue.

A research question guides the ‘type’ of research you want to do. These are of two broad categories:

  1. Basic research is when one attempts to understand natural phenomena or the processes that take place in nature. It is used to come up with new theories upon which future research can be built. It is purely scientific. It may or may not have immediate applications in society.
  2. Applied research is concerned with making use of already-established scientific theories or facts to derive solutions and solve problems. Most of the research done is of this latter kind which includes experiments, case studies etc and can involve any discipline. This kind of research has immediate applications for society. It is further subdivided into many types:
  • Quantitative uses numbers and graphs to chart the findings.
  • Qualitative involves the usage of words to collect data.
  • Comparative sees similarities and differences between two variables.
  • Correlational establishes the relationship between two variables.
  • Descriptive expands on and defines the characteristics of a variable by asking ‘what’ questions.
  • Exploratory identifies key issues and variables.
  • Action tries to find strategies to solve a problem etc.

How to formulate a good research question?

In order to come up with a good research question, one must go through several systematic steps:

  1. Choose a topic and study it broadly after which you pick the aspect of it on which you want to work, which makes it practical to answer. The more focused your research question the better your research e.g instead of finding the differences in students studying in Karachi board vs Cambridge board which isn’t specific, you can instead formulate a question where you compare the differences in leadership qualities among students who studied in the most expensive private school of Karachi board vs the most expensive school of Cambridge board.
  2. The question that you choose should be answered using either a qualitative or quantitative approach i.e it is measurable. There are many ways to go about it. You can either pick previous research and try to build on that or instead collect new data by using online software or manual questionnaires etc. Whatever approach you take, it is vital that you have access to the information and the people you need. Another important thing here is time management. If you think the question is too complex to answer in the time constraints you have, simplify it and make it less detailed. The sources that you cite should be credible and the data you build on must be authentic.
  3. Clearly define your objective and do not be vague about the terms. Use well-defined ideas instead of abstract concepts. You can do this by using words like who, what, where, and when and avoid asking why questions e.g instead of asking why forensic medical professionals suffer from depression, one can ask what are the factors that contribute to increased depression among forensic medical professionals compared to other medical fields.
  4. Your research should aim towards creating an understanding of the problem and suggesting possible ways to tackle it and in so doing provide guidance as to how one can move towards finding a solution rather than just asking for a solution outright e.g instead of asking how to keep students motivated to pay attention during class, one can ask what are the most effective strategies to increase the attention span of medical students during a 45-minute lecture?
  5. While the research topic should be tailored to match the time and resources available. make sure it is not too simple. It should require more than a yes or no answer. It’s also important that one cannot find the answer to the question by one google search or after reading a single article instead it should necessitate looking at several different sources. Therefore, it must also be complex enough to warrant a discussion and further future scrutiny e.g instead of asking if Is there domestic violence among poor people, ask what bearing does education and financial status have among victims who suffer from domestic violence?
  6. Make sure the research you are doing is relevant to either your field of study or society in general. It must aim to address a problem and fill the gap in human knowledge. As such, it’s important to focus on current topics that future generations can build upon.
  7. The research does not have to be something radical or revolutionary, however, it should bring something new to the table by looking at the problem from a different angle, choosing different numbers, names or locations, etc
  8. Lastly, there must always be room for discussion and improvement. Things should not be presented as fact rather must always be open to criticism and new arguments.

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